To Drakenstead — Part 4
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
The nice army man ended up showing us to a gorgeous looking hotel. It was, by all means, the type of establishment that only the wealthy were prone to stay in, and featured several stories, large rooms, and a fancy diner.
“This is a pretty nice place.” I said between bites. “The food is pretty damned good too.”
“Indeed. I appreciate his efforts. He did well to ensure that we need not pay the details, such as the fare, any attention.” She raised her eyes from her dish and looked across the table. Her gaze ultimately ended up settling on the sword girl sitting diagonally from her. “Your clothes have stained, Enne.”
“Mmmn…?” Enne gave herself a once over, but she was ultimately unable to locate the stain that Lefi had referred to.
“Be still.” Lefi sighed. “I shall remove it in your stead.”
She picked up a napkin and began cleaning up the meaty juices that had fallen onto the other girl’s collar. Though she’d acted reluctant, it was clear as day that she was, in truth, more than just happy to help. Watching them interact in such a mother-daughter like manner warmed my heart. I couldn’t help but smile.
While I had no issues wholeheartedly enjoying the status quo, I was fully aware that it didn’t stem from good will. The hotel was clearly one with deep connections to the military. Many of the staff members were retired vets, and members of the regular standing army had been ushered in under the guise of guests in order to keep an eye on us. They’d even thrown what seemed to be a number of secret agents into the mix, just in case.
I couldn’t blame them. The guy that had called out to us, the important looking middle-aged officer with decorations aplenty, had the Analyze skill. He knew exactly who Lefi was, which meant that he was definitely not going to simply leave her unchecked. She was basically a living breathing nuke.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the type to let a couple onlookers ruin my fun. In fact, the opposite was true. I’d milked a good laugh out of them by pulling Enne out of my inventory and having her personify. Oh man, that was great. One guy went from almost shitting his pants because he thought I was about to start something to having his jaw drop literally all the way.
The living sword had, at one point, hated standing by within my personal space-time distortion, but that was no longer the case. She’d grown used to it, and no longer leaked loneliness every single time she was put away. In fact, she’d actually begun describing the experience as something along the lines of being tucked into bed at night. The darkness used to terrify her, but at some point, she learned to enjoy the comfort of lying underneath the sheets, and it stopped bothering her. She also mentioned something about feeling at ease because she was surrounded by my mana. Honestly, I don’t really get it, but I’m glad she’s fine with it now.
Boredom was still a factor, however, which was why I had her join us whenever we stopped to rest. I would’ve loved to have her out all the time so she could see the sights with us, but frankly, she was way too heavy. Flying for several days straight while carrying her sounded like a surefire way for me to kill myself with exhaustion. In the end, it’s more or less all my fault. There wouldn’t be any issue if I was a bit more buff. …I should probably get on that, shouldn’t I?
“You know, now that I think about it, it’s been a long time since we’ve actually been out of the house together for more than just the day.”
Lefi frequently joined me when I went about randomly doing things in the Wicked Forest, but she was rarely there when I was actually out on business. Nell generally ended up accompanying me for that instead.
“Indeed. I have often been relegated to keeping an eye on our nest whilst you seek adventure.”
Her willingness to stay at home was, frankly, the only reason that I was able to not worry about the defense of my core while I was out and about. I really appreciated her for it. I should probably tell her that.
“Honestly, you being around is the only reason I feel comfortable with going out and doing things in the first place. But I kinda feel bad that you end up on house duty all the time.”
“It is not a concern. Protecting our nest is my duty as your mate,” she said, while smiling in the manliest, most reliable way.
She would’ve looked super cool, had there not been a massive, freshly formed stain smack dab in the middle of her dress. Just Lefi things, I guess…
“Lefi, there’s a stain,” said Enne.
“A-a stain, you say?” she stuttered.
“I’ll get it.”
The two swapped roles. This time, Enne wiped the stain off Lefi’s dress. Oh man, she’s blushing so hard. Hnnng. Mah hart. Mah sole. If it was possible to take screenshots in real life, this would be the perfect time for one.
“So…” I set down my fork and leaned back into my chair as I finished the delicious meal they’d treated us to. “We should probably start avoiding human settlements, except when we stop to sleep or whatever. Hell, I don’t even mind camping out if we have to. I’d rather not deal with stuff like what happened today if we can avoid it. It was kind of a pain.”
I thought it was a pretty good idea, but Lefi didn’t quite seem to agree. The moment she spent contemplating it was one she spent frowning.
“I do not think it to be possible. We cannot rely on my memory. It has been a hundred years since I last visited the area, and a number of drastic changes have occurred ever since. Members of the races, especially humans, expand the areas of their residence at an alarming rate. This city was one that did not previously exist.”
Right… yeah. Shit does kinda change over the course of a literal century.
“I am under the vague impression that there is another country between Drakenstead and our current location. I shall attempt to steer us clear of it, for I also do not wish to be involved in any additional altercations.”
“Thanks, and yeah, getting involved with a second army just sounds like a pain in the ass. Things only worked out this time because one of the top brass had appraisal and happened to be pretty rational. Anyone who doesn’t know who you are is honestly probably just going to attack us.”
“If that comes to pass, I shall simply retaliate and destroy them.”
“Mhm… I’ll fight too,” said Enne enthusiastically.
Goddamn it. They’re way too gung ho about resorting to violence…
“Yeah uh…” I laughed awkwardly. “I mean… that is probably what we’d have to end up doing, but I’d rather not. I was envisioning a more laid back trip, you know, with minimal bloodshed.”
“That is a sentiment with which I agree,” said Lefi. “Worry not. I will avoid all settlements that I become aware of.”
“Thanks. Don’t worry too much about speed. Let’s just take it easy,” I said. “You wouldn’t mind that either, right, Enne?”
“Anything is okay. As long as we’re all together.”
“Yeah. I feel the same way.”
I pat her on the head and smiled.
“Reporting in, Commander!” A man slightly more decorated than his peers approached Zellirum with a salute.
“So? How were our guests?”
“Just fine, sir. They enjoyed their meal and headed back to their room in good spirits. The only thing I have of note is that they were acting like a family.” The subordinate frowned. “With all due respect, sir, are you sure that’s really the Supreme Dragon?”
Zellirum scrunched his face up into a frown.
“Without a doubt,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting her to behave this way either. The legends made her seem… a lot less human.”
The soldier didn’t quite understand why the supreme dragon looked the way she did. The power she radiated convinced him that Analyze was telling him the truth, but he understood that not all could feel said aura. His subordinates’ doubts were well within reason. Further scrambling their perceptions was her current lack of any and all draconic traits. It appeared that both she and her companion had used some sort of spell to make themselves look perfectly human.
“Who was the girl? The little one?” asked Zellirum. “I don’t remember seeing her when I showed them to the establishment.”
“Are you talking about the one with the black hair and the odd dress with the incredibly loose sleeves?”
“That’s the one.”
“She came out of the man’s sword.”
“…Could you repeat that?”
“Yessir. She came out of the man’s sword,” repeated the soldier, with a straight face.
Zellirum raised a hand to his brow and massaged his temples.
“I’m not quite sure I understand exactly what is going on anymore.”
“Me either, commander, me either.” The military man sighed. “Speaking of, sir, I’m starting to feel like this mission isn’t as much of an important duty as it is a way to torture us lonely bachelors. The way they were flirting was sickeningly sweet.”
“I understand how you feel, but you’ll have to hang in there, just for a little bit longer,” said Zellirum with a grimace. “Have no doubts, this is the greatest crisis our country’s faced since its founding. Though I have to admit… it’s a bit of a disappointing crisis, all things considered…”
“You’re right about that,” the subordinate chuckled. “Well, I guess I’ll get back to it. Orders are orders, after all.”
“Aye. That’s just what it means to be a soldier. It might be tough, especially during times like these, but it’s why they keep us around.”
“You can say that again, sir.”
After a final salute, the two men each returned to their duties and resigned themselves for a long, restless, stressful night.